In March of 2011, Saint-Tropez’s infamous beach club La Voile Rouge was officially ordered to shut down after 45 years of world renowned, high-class debauchery. Apparently, those countless noise complaints lodged by its tony neighbors did more than just bolster its reputation as the world’s ultimate beach party. But in true rebel fashion, the club ignored the order and kept the bottles popping all summer, entertaining the celebrities and billionaires and counting the money until the police showed up with bulldozers.
To the nightlife enthusiast, it seems drastic to force close an iconic day-to-night club that’s been entertaining VIPs from Brigitte Bardot to Bruce Willis since the ‘60s, becoming in the process the archetype for the good life, but we get it. Thumping bass lines, deafening helicopters, Paris Hilton’s banshee shriek as she’s showered with Moët: it’s enough to drive the best of us crazy at 4:00 am on a Tuesday. But then, if you live in Saint-Tropez, a maison de mischief for half a century, you shouldn’t expect tranquil summers of quiet contemplation.
Yet the locals finally gained the upper hand against the jet setters by enlisting the aid of Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri. “My wish is not to get rid of Saint Tropez’s bling image—that is part of its identity now,” Tuveri told The Telegraph. “My policy is simply to try and drag its brand image upwards via culture.”
Surely it’s his prerogative to shift the party from champagne spraying to champagne sipping, but Saint Tropez’s chief source of income is tourism. It’s an economy that thrives on Joe Yachter’s nightly six-figure bills at beach clubs like La Voile Rouge. If Tuveri wants to class up the town by putting a muzzle on the party, Saint-Tropez will no longer be the place where anything goes, for a price. It’ll be the place where most things go, with some caveats, curfews, and curtailments. And that might just be enough to send the beautiful people elsewhere in their search for high-end hedonism. Those in the know are already reporting that many of the bumping, boozy, fleshy, paparazzi-swarmed parties have moved up the coast to Cannes.
To get some local perspective, we reached out to industry insider and longtime Saint-Tropez resident Celia Gumbau, co-founder of the luxurious Hotel Muse. “Nightlife in Saint Tropez is less fun and rich than it used to be,” she says. “Cannes has definitely become more nightlife-oriented, with huge nightclubs like Gotha and Palais that have international DJ lineups.”
So does this mean the party’s over? Has Saint-Tropez surrendered its crown as the world party capital to its film-loving cousin up the coast? Non. It takes more than a few flustered neighbors to flay this beast. Despite the crackdown, some Saint-Tropez clubs—such as the Paris Hilton-approved VIP Room, and Jay-Z’s go-to spot Les Caves du Roy at the Hotel Byblos—have managed to maintain their riotous reputations. Other hosts have gotten creative.
“Most of the parties are happening on yachts and in private villas, owned or rented for the month,” says Gumbau. “Saint-Tropez is still Saint-Tropez, and you still see all the world coming, celebrities, billionaires … ” She trails off, thinking of the endless parade of glitterati. So the party isn’t over, it’s just been moved to the150-foot Ferretti on the water, where the cops will need snorkels to bust it.